Andre Agassi and his dad, Mike, who emigrated from Iran to the
U.S. in 1953, aren't the closest father and son. Mike's
pressuring Andre to excel on the court since his childhood led
to friction and estrangement during Andre's rise to tennis
greatness. The two have been friends for some time now, but
there was some big-time bonding going on yesterday at Stone
Mountain Tennis Center after the men's gold medal singles match.
Agassi played his best match of a bad year and blew away Sergi
Bruguera of Spain 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 in 78 broiling minutes.
Afterward, Mike, who had surprised his son by flying in from Las
Vegas for the final, met Andre at the edge of the stands and
hugged him. It was not Mike's first trip to the Olympics. Boxing
for Iran under the name of Manuel Aghasi, he competed at the
1948 London Games and the 1952 Helsinki Games but didn't win a
No wonder his son's Olympic victory had special meaning. In
fact, both agreed that it was the biggest win of Andre's career,
bigger than his 1992 Wimbledon title or his 1994 U.S. Open
championship. And no wonder they came together in that bear hug.
"A memorable embrace," Andre said. "One we'll have for the rest
of our lives."
"This is the closest I will ever come to a gold medal," said
Mike, his thick Iranian accent mixing with a cracking voice.
In becoming the first U.S. men's singles gold medalist since
Vincent Richards in 1924--tennis was not an Olympic sport from
1928 through '84--Agassi never let Bruguera into the match. The
Spaniard contributed 60 unforced errors to the cause, including
three when Agassi was serving at 2-2 of the second set. With
crosscourt winners and deft drop shots accompanying an accurate
serve, Agassi won 10 of the last 12 games. It's a tribute to
Bruguera that he didn't tank this match even when his chances
became hopeless. He just got his clock cleaned.
So many top-ranked players treat this tournament like some
tune-up before the U.S. Open. Not Agassi. He stunned the media
throng with his rah-rah Olympic speech afterward. "This is the
greatest accomplishment I've ever had in this sport," he said.
"The Olympics is the biggest thing you can do in all of sports.
Listening to the anthem on the medal stand--it's just
incredible. If they want me back in Sydney in 2000, I'll be
Agassi made it a sweep for the U.S. in singles play, his victory
coming on the heels of Lindsay Davenport's 7-6 (8-6), 6-2 win
over Spain's Arantxa Sanchez Vicario for the women's title on
Friday. Then, in the women's doubles final last night, Gigi
Fernandez and Mary Joe Fernandez of the U.S. defended the gold
medal they had won four years ago in Barcelona by beating Helena
Sukova and Jana Novotna of the Czech Republic 7-6 (8-6), 6-4.
The men's doubles gold was won by a pair of Australians, Mark
Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge, although Woodbridge now lives in
Agassi's triumph in Atlanta helps offset an awful year on the
pro circuit, where he lost to nobodies in the second round at
the French Open and in the first round at Wimbledon. "I got a
lot of momentum going here," Agassi said. "The way I was
playing, I didn't care who was on the other side of the net.
This is the way I need to play. When I play with this attacking
style, I get more confident with each match."
He played almost stoically against Bruguera, never questioning a
call or throwing a fit. Leading 5-1 in the third set, he still
wouldn't loosen up. "We love you, man!" one man hollered, and
the crowd broke up. Not Agassi. This was serious business. He
knew it, and so did his dad.
"This is great moment," Mike Agassi said. "This comes every four
years. Wimbledon comes every year. This is most special. Believe
me. This is most special."
COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN Agassi, who saved his best tennis of the year for the Olympics, was aggressive throughout the final. [Andre Agassi]